It is Sunday Funday! COOS is gearing up for Tuesday, November 27th ... #GivingCOOSday! Stay tuned for more! Until then, today's blog is all about Robyn Smith: trombonist, community-builder, and all-around lovely woman! Hailing from Atlanta, Ms. Smith is an alumna of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Talent Development Program. Her career at New England conservatory has thus far included local performances, being active in the New England Conservatory Black Student Union (NEC BSU), and being part of a European Tour (which included a performance in het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam). If you are in the Boston area, please attend her upcoming recital on DECEMBER 3rd at 8PM, Brown Hall, at New England Conservatory!
BIBA: How did you become a trombonist and who were some of the people that helped and/or inspired you directly (teachers, mentors) or indirectly (other trombonists, musicians, artists) along the way?
RS: Growing up, my two older brothers played in our church, bands, and orchestras. I knew I wanted to play an instrument because of simply watching them committing so much time to music. When I was old enough to join the band in elementary school I started on trumpet and quickly switched to trombone. When I arrived at middle school, one of my most inspiring and influential teachers that impacted my musical career, Robert Jeffrey, told all the girls joining the band that he would get Beyonce to come to our school if we had a band full of female trombone players. It didn’t take much for me to decide to continue playing the trombone, but I can say this idea was definitely a push. Robert Jeffrey was humbly committed to the success of his students. He challenged me and made me believe that I could go as far as I wanted on my instrument with hard work and discipline. After leaving middle school, I joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program, where I first studied privately under Colin Williams (NY Philharmonic) and Nathan Zgonc (Atlanta Symphony). They were equally inspirational and encouraged me to continue my journey towards being not only a classical trombonist but a better musician. The ASO’s Talent Development Program guided me on a journey that has exposed me to [some of the] greatest opportunities and teachers a young musician could ever have.
BIBA: What have been some of your favorite gigs or musical experiences, and when did they happen?
RS: My favorite gigs are the gigs that force me out of my box, challenging my musicianship and adaptability. My freshman year, I got a call to play in a 70s funk band! We played all the top charts that your auntie played in her Lincoln when you were younger. I had a blast because first it was a party but secondly, I had the opportunity to witness the music bring so much happiness and joy to everyone.
This past September, I played in the pit orchestra at the American Repertory Theatre for the performances of “The Black Clown.” This Langston Hughes inspired work was the most transformative musical experience I have ever been a part of. Having such a deep connection to the art you are performing is incredibly fulfilling,
BIBA: Please explain your work related to the NEC Black Student Union.
RS: This is my second year serving as the NEC BSU president. Our main focus has been finding ways to reconnect the POC community at NEC, but also find ways to educate and include the Boston and NEC community through concerts, panel discussions and other creative events. Our main highlights of the year include the Celebration of NEC Alumna Coretta Scott King, Roxbury Youth Orchestra partnership/side-by-side concert, and other concerts/events that highlight Black music/art.
BIBA: What was the experience like working with COOS on Black Kaleidoscope?
RS: Wow, this project was very interesting because for the first time in a while, I was called to produce art without my trombone. Channeling my musical passion into my voice and body movements was quite an internal journey. I had to think about what we were trying to say in this work and what it meant to me. Without my trombone, I was able to address the concept and idea personally. Sometimes my trombone can act as a barrier in which I am not able to connect fully. The experience was opportune. I am discovering my place as a female Black classical musician in this industry, but also realizing that my place will change. We expressed the transformation of the body and mind, realizing the brokenness and pain but reaching beyond this and discovering self love, worth and freedom. All of which, I believe most women of color experience.
BIBA: What are some of your upcoming projects?
RS: Right now I am preparing for my senior recital at NEC. I will also be on tour with the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass this December. As I finish my degree at NEC, I hope to continue to take orchestra auditions and continue on to graduate school.
Ms. Baker can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @Noprob_rob
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